The Thruster: 7 Ways to Improve your Technique

What do Kalsu, Fran and Jackie have in common? Quite a big amount of thrusters.

The starting position for a thruster is the front squat, but to get into it you need to load the bar on your shoulders using the clean. Also to reach a valid rep the bar needs to finish overhead with elbows extended and locked. Sounds easy, but not so when a nice amount of them is combined with chest-to-bar pull ups or burpees.

The following reasons with tips should help you cycle thrusters through MetCon workouts a bit faster, and a bit easier.

1. Your front squat needs more work

Foundations for thrusters are built with front squats: a squat variation where the barbell is positioned on your (front) shoulders. Which means your torso needs to be upright, so the weight together with your body gets balanced properly.

To keep the torso upright, you need a sufficient mobility in your ankles and hips, and a good core strength that will allow you having a better control over the weight and movement itself.In general, the demand for overall mobility is much higher than with back squats.

In the bottom position make sure you keep the weight on the heels. Engage core and drive up with your hips. Learn how to activate and use both within the movement. Your thrusters will benefit from strength built with front squats.

Read more: Why you should be doing more squats

2. Your front rack mobility is a challenge

Insufficient front rack mobility is a common reason why so many athletes struggle with either front squat or thruster. The bar needs to rest on your shoulders, you should look for a “comfortable” position which feels strong and where your arms only control, not carry the bar/weight.

So if your torso is upright, your shoulders, wrist and arms in general need to be mobile enough to only control the position of the barbell. Until the top position of the squat, your torso carries the weight. Avoid touching the bar only with finger tips; grab it with a hook grip. If this is impossible, make it manageable with mobility drills.

Kelly Starrett’s tutorials to help you with that:

Also regular work on front squats will eventually improve your rack mobility as heavier weight will force you to hold the bar in a better, more efficient way.

3. The bar starts to slide down: off your shoulders

Inappropriate rack position, limited overall mobility and leaned-forward torso will cause the bar to start slipping off your shoulders. Fixing it during the WOD will therefore cost you extra strength and energy, and also disturb your focus.

In the bottom squat position your elbows needs to stay up, whether doing front squats or thrusters. Focus on keeping the bar fixated well on your shoulders, and be accurate with receiving it in this position as well. Rather slow down the tempo and perfect the movement, the speed up and lose control.

4. Your push press needs more work as well

Push press is the second part of the thruster. Starting from the bottom position, engage your core and glutes, drive up (explode out of the bottom) with your hips and thrust the bar overhead. Don’t press it as you’ll eventually, especially with high volume thrusters, burn out.

Like in many other Crossfit MetCon’s movements you have to look for efficiency, using less strength and more weightless momentum to last longer. Same goes for thursters: generate the power by standing up from the squat and use it for “throwing” the weight over head.

Learn the push press and it’s characteristics. Stand in a hip-width position, keep the weight on the heels. Dip and drive up to push the barbell up. Understand the difference between shoulder press and push press. Also, learn to feel that difference.

5. You lose balance: put on the Oly shoes

Weightlifting exercises should look perfect and well controlled. So if your regular training shoes feel to “soft” to keep you in a solid position, put on the oly shoes. Hard, solid heel will help you stay balanced throughout the movement. Trying to keep balance doesn’t just cost your extra energy and focus, but also increases the risk for a potential injuries. No balance, no control.

6. You begin too fast: don’t start unbroken

You might go unbroken for the first round, but you’ll definitely broke down later. Thruster is a metabolic conditioning exercise which needs proper pacing and smart approach when being done in higher amount of reps. Take a rest even if you feel your tank is still full. Never forget there are at least 4 more rounds ahead.

Be accurate with standards for valid reps. Extend elbows on top, reach below parallel on the bottom.

7. Don’t forget about the cleans: they also need more work

Thrusters start with cleaning the weight into the front squat position. Clean directly into the squat, don’t power clean it. If you have issues with that, you have to strengthen the cleans: to solidly, confidently receive the weight in the bottom, front squats position.

Read more: Thruster – learn how to like it

In the following video Barbell Shrugged team talks about thruster tips for Fran, where they break down the mobility, technique and pacing.

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